Ethos, Pathos and Logos

It was the Ancient Greeks who first studied rhetoric, the art of persuasion. They identified what became known as the 3 pillars of persuasion; Ethos; Pathos and Logos. Their proposal was that you couldn’t be a successful persuader without all 3.

So let’s look at them.

Ethos

This refers your credibility when you are the person doing the persuading. It involves being trusted by the people you are trying to persuade. That could be influenced by your track-record, your academic qualifications or simply your job role, whatever it is that gives you credibility with the group of people you are persuading right now. It might be a different thing with another group, so it’s important to think up front about what it might be for you.

Pathos

This is all about emotion. Theirs and yours. First you need to know what they care about. What gets them excited and what keeps them awake at night? Present your case using either what you have to excite them with or what you have to take away their fears and you have a much more receptive audience. Then there are your emotions. If you don’t present your case passionately you have zero chance of getting your audience to feel passionate about it.

Logos

It’s only worth working with Logos (logic to you and me) if you have both Ethos and Pathos. Frankly if you seem untrustworthy to me and you are talking about things that don’t excite or scare me I’m not even going to listen to your logic. However if you do have the Ethos and pathos then your logic had better add up. You’d better have some evidence or statistics from reliable sources (providing more Ethos) if you really want to persuade me.

So, when you are persuading, whether it’s in a presentation or 1-2-1, get your Ethos, Pathos and Logos sorted out before you start.